Monday, April 25, 2016

North Texas Teen Book Festival 2016

This weekend was the 2nd annual North Texas Teen Book Festival. Honestly, after last year's issues with the signing lines, I wasn't sure I wanted to go. But my middle sister, the book nerd, said "yes, absolutely!" so I said okay. Then she double booked her weekend and ended up not being able to go lol. So I was kind of wavering back and forth on if I should go or not. Then the organizers announced they were doing "Fast Passes" this year, for $100 to see 10 authors (or $200 for 25, an outrageous amount in my opinion), and were giving away 2 passes. I entered the contest, with this pic below, and won! So my fate was set. :)
(click any pics to make bigger!)

It's kind of awkward going to this kind of event by yourself, especially if you're super quiet and older than most of the people there by a good 15 years like me. But I still had fun. I got there around 9:30 and headed to my first panel: "Boarding Pass", all about traveling books and experiences with Adi Alsaid, Ally Carter, Gayle Forman, Kristen Rae, and Jessica Taylor (pic below). The young girl sitting in front of me freaked out because Gayle Forman smiled at her lol. It was really great seeing that enthusiasm throughout the day. The organizers said there were probably 8,000 people there, mostly teens. It was kind of insane at times. And with those numbers, unfortunately there was at least one group that needed a little more discipline than they were getting. For the most part though, everyone was polite and friendly and very, very excited.

My next panel was "Book Boyfriends" with Jessica Brody, Ally Carter, Sarah Dessen, Julie Murphy, and Amy Spalding (pic above). This was a great group and a lot of fun. Julie Murphy had the quote in my opinion: "fat girls like to makeout too." Yeah. Also, there was a Baby-Sitters Club reference!! Which I'm sure most of the room didn't get hah. Amy Spaulding cited Logan Likes Mary Anne as her first book crush and her belief, as a teen, that every day there was the possibility of a new guy moving to town and falling in love with her. Totally. After this panel, I needed a break from the crowds and the huge escalator lines, so I stepped aside to take a selfie, as one does. (I wore my "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good" tshirt.) Then I headed downstairs to buy my books at the Half Price Books shop (again, not half price, very irritating). I had brought 2 books with me and bought 3 others. Unfortunately, they sold out of one of my wants, Jessica Brody's Boys of Summer, but I'm sure I'll pick it up soon. My sister was kind enough to bring me lunch too so I wouldn't have to pay the exorbitant hamburger prices.

Heading back into the fray, I really wanted to go to a graphic novel panel but I got there too late and the room was already full so I went to a "Daring Reads" discussion instead. I'm kind of glad I did, because it reminded me that I wanted to buy Lori Goldstein's Becoming Jinn too. "Books that Rock!" featured Gayle Forman talking about her hot musician boyfriend/husband and Gordon Korman making lots of punk rock references that went over all the teens' heads lol. And that was my last panel. There were at least a dozen others that I wanted to go to, but they were so packed in each hour it was nearly impossible to choose.
(volume up on this one, down on the second)

Gayle Forman and Libba Bray did the closing keynote and had an epic rap battle that was both ridiculous and hilarious. And also quite touching, showing how much they love and need each other as author BFF's.

And then it was on to the signing hall, which was once again not well thought out. :( I am almost positive that I would not have stood in that line if I hadn't had the Fast Pass. Luckily, I did though and got to meet Gayle Forman, Rachel Caine, Lori Goldstein, and Faith Erin Hicks. They were all incredibly gracious and wonderful. Gayle remarked on my super old copy of If I Stay and Faith said that she had no current plans for a Friends With Boys sequel but it was always in the back of her head. (We can still hope!)
(book pic features my brand new bicycle! :))

Since I only used 4 of my 10 passes, I decided to head outside to the end of the line and give my remaining 6 away to someone else. I looked around and approached 2 girls who only had small stacks of books in their arms. They were beyond overjoyed when I gave them the passes and that made the end of the day perfect for me. :) So there you have it, my full day of books and authors and teenagers! I hope this wasn't overly long and you enjoyed reading it...I always enjoy reading about others' author experiences so I hope it's the same for you!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Review: "The Pastures of Heaven"

The Pastures of Heaven by John Steinbeck
4 out of 5 stars

Steinbeck can do no wrong in my opinion. (Even The Pearl and The Red Pony, which I had to mark down for killing so much, are still literary masterpieces.) He has unequivocally become my favorite author. This little book of short stories is no different. The passion and love that Steinbeck has for his home town of Salinas, California shines thru on the pages of many of these books.

The layout is similar to that of Cannery Row, short chapters on various people in the small town and the escapades they get up to. But all of these stories center around one family, the Munroes, who move into the old cursed Battle farm. They manage to remake the farm into something prosperous and are good people but somehow they manage to bring bad luck to their neighbors and friends without even knowing it. Jobs become tedious, love affairs go awry, homes catch fire, and people even die.

“Maybe your curse and the farm's curse mated and gone into a gopher hole like a pair of snakes. Maybe they'll be a lot of baby curses crawling around in Pastures of Heaven.”

Unlike Cannery Row, there is not an optimism to these stories. These people get worn down and broken and it's sad to read about. *spoilers ahead* My favorite story (and the saddest in my opinion) was about Pat Humbert, a 30-something year old man who lives with his elderly parents until they die. He inherits their family home but cannot bring himself to make any changes or even enter the sitting room that his parents inhabited each day. He closes it up and ignores the ghosts that haunt him at night, by going out to town and joining all the groups he can find. Even though he joins these groups and participates, he is still on the sidelines, rarely interacting with others unless they do so first. One day, he overhears the young and lovely Mae Munroe (of the cursed Munroes) mention how beautiful the outside of his home is and this sparks an energy in him to remake his home and himself, so that he may eventually court the girl. He starts with the sitting room and tears it apart, freeing the ghosts inside. He becomes obsessed with redecorating, even looking at magazines at the library. He finally finishes and declares himself ready to greet Mae. But when he goes over to her home, he discovers the family celebrating her engagement to another young man in town. And he is heartbroken. He returns home and is repulsed by all his effort, claims the home is dark and unutterably dreary, and refuses to step foot into the house again, sleeping in the barn instead. That is where his story ends.

After the bare requisites to living and reproducing, man wants most to leave some record of himself, a proof, perhaps, that he has really existed. He leaves his proof on wood, on stone or on the lives of other people. 
This deep desire exists in everyone, from the boy who writes dirty words in a public toilet to the Buddha who etches his image in the race mind. 
Life is so unreal. I think that we seriously doubt that we exist and go about trying to prove that we do.